The Business Transformation report, published in The Times, explores why this requires a step change in both managerial mindset and company culture. Taking the lead from startups, the report explores how all businesses need to embrace agility.
Our contribution to the publication delves into the detail of how in a market crowded with digital innovation, agile transformation is crucial to retain the competitive edge.
"Historically, market leaders with decades of industry knowledge have ruled the commercial roost, relying on rigorous controls and processes to protect certainty. But today’s digital world represents a paradigm shift. Disruptive startups, equipped to get to market faster, present a real threat to incumbents that still map their business plans along a lengthy path of predefined outcomes, checkpoints and permissions.
Why? Because over-reliance on traditional project roadmaps shifts the focus away from digital’s primary competitive driver: the outcome. Social, cloud and XaaS (Anything as a Service) technology, agile techniques and iterative, customer-driven testing all enable digital challengers to achieve traction rapidly, with minimal capital investment and a “learn as you go” philosophy. For the traditional blue chip, risk-averse legacy processes hinder the capacity to compete.
Ironically, striving for predetermined certainty achieves just the opposite. Winning market share is the commercial goal, but an insistence on processes that cannot deviate from predefined parameters shuts down the scope for adaptive creativity. While your project teams spend weeks, or even months, waiting for decisions on escalated queries or financial approval, an army of disrupters are marching on your market. Today’s customer sets little store by brand loyalty. They won’t wait for you. Meeting their expectations demands profound transformation, not just of process, but to your operating model and organisational culture.
The shift must be made from immovable project chains to lean iterative delivery. Top-down governance must become delegated decision-making. Robust, multi-year budgets must defer to flexible funding that supports continuous innovation. Departmental silos must embrace cross-functional working. And the C-suite mindset must transform. Leaders must recognise those closest to your product are best equipped to make the immediate decisions that will deliver the outcomes your customers want now, not outcomes you planned two years ago. So how do we strike the balance between fostering this brave new world of devolved responsibility, while keeping a hold on the governance reins?
Embracing this reality is a good place to start. You’re not going to force a change to “the way we do things around here” overnight. A more realistic approach is to seek out pathfinder initiatives that enable your people the freedom to adapt and excel. Yes, broad guardrails are needed, but the risks associated with localised accountability are far outweighed by the benefits of generating demonstrable success to evidence the business case for wider transformation.
Crucially, IT must interact with the business differently. Outcome-driven delivery is no longer about submitting requirements to IT and waiting. It’s a new way of working and ongoing conversation. Moving forward, your people will need the skills to facilitate that debate. Naturally, those well versed in emerging technologies offer an edge, but the ability to engage, influence, negotiate, adapt and make decisions will be even more crucial. Nurturing those skills and talents is a key strategic driver in the race for transformational success.
So too is speed. In my experience, an accelerant is needed to prime the transformation journey. Typically, that might be the co-opting of partner organisations to input ready-to-go expertise. Balance is key. Outsourcing change can create problematic dependencies, yet initiating a purely internal change programme promises a painfully slow path. The ideal solution is an intelligent blend, where partners function as the transformational driver, simultaneously augmenting the capacity of internal teams on an incremental basis, until you reach the optimum mix of talent-driven innovation to satisfy your customers.
From the C-suite perspective, passion and clarity are needed to cascade entrepreneurial spirit and unleash the true profit-making potential of your people. Be bold. Face into the challenge. Yes, the risks are real, but so are the rewards for those courageous enough to lead their organisations down this rich new road of opportunity."